November 18, 2013 - March 23, 2014
March 24 - May 23, 2014
White-nose Syndrome & Cave Tours
White-nose Syndrome (WNS), a disease killing millions of bats in the U.S. and Canada, was recently found in February 2013 at Carter Caves State Resort Park. WNS does not have any effect on humans, livestock or pets; only hibernating bats. WNS is killing 70-100% of hibernating bats in infected caves throughout the Northeast. Although this disease is mainly transmitted by bats, significant evidence indicates that humans may have unknowingly transmitted the fungus from one cave to another, contributing to the spread of White-nose Syndrome.
WNS affects bats because a non-native fungus, Geoymyces destructans, which thrives in cool, dark environments like caves and mines where bats live and hibernate. After the bats are in hibernation for a period of time the fungus begins to grow on their muzzles, wings and other hairless parts. The irritation causes the bats to awaken, groom themselves and fly around during a period when they should be hibernating. This activity uses up their fat reserves needed to keep them alive until their food source, night flying insects, returns in mid spring. In many cases the bats will starve themselves to death before their food source returns in the spring.
Carter Caves State Resort Park, like many other commercial caves and parks have done, is requiring all cave tour visitors to go through a decontamination station upon exit of the cave tours. Decontamination procedures have been in place since the fall of 2011. These measures could help slow down the spread of WNS into unaffected caves in other states.
How You Can Help
Do not wear the shoes, clothing, or carry objects that you had with you while on a cave tour at Carter Caves into another cave system outside of Carter Caves area. This will possibly prevent any unintentional spread of the disease to unaffected areas.
Prohibited On Cave Tours
Because of the possibility of White-nose Syndrome contamination, the following are prohibited on cave tours:
• Camera bags, tripods, strollers, backpacks, luggage, etc.
• Bags of any type, including purses, fanny packs, diaper bags, camera cases, etc. Bags containing necessary medical supplies are permitted.
• Sandals/flip-flops, etc. Please wear appropriate shoes that cover the entire foot for safety.
Required Participant Decontamination Protocol
All cave touring participants at Carter Caves State Resort Park will be required to walk on bio-mats after exiting the cave tour. This process will require each individual to walk across the length of an outdoor carpet and across a bio mat containing water and possibly Lysol IC mixture. This process has been proven to help prevent the spread of fungal spores. This process will assist bat ecologists and will be a precaution to what WE CAN DO for the betterment of bat species. Thank you for your assistance with these procedures. NOTE: Please review these procedures before you purchase any cave tour tickets as refunds cannot be issued at the Welcome Center.
For additional information on WNS you can visit the following website: www.whitenosesyndrome.org
Current Cave Tours
The name of this cave refers to the configuration of its passages, which seem to cross in the center of the cave to form the letter "X." Cave highlights include the Great Chandelier, the largest formation of stalactites in the cave; cave coral; and formations with such tell-tale names as the Giant Turkey, the Pipe Organ and Headache Rock. Cave tours: approximately 45minutes, ¼ mile long, 75 stair steps and some narrow passages and stooping. Tours available year-round.
The largest cave on the park. Cascade Cave is noted for its large chambers and many beautiful cave formations. A highlight of the tour is a 30-foot high underground waterfall.
Special features include the Lake Room’s reflecting pool; the Cathedral in North Cave; and the Dance Hall, where a previous owner held weekly dances. Cave tours: approximately 75 minutes, ¾-mile long, easy terrain with exception of over 250 stairs throughout the cave. Tours available year-round.
Saltpetre Cave is considered by many historians to be the site of the earliest industry in the area. The cave was used during the War of 1812 as a source of the major ingredient in making gunpowder and is currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Discover a fascinating segment of Kentucky’s history as you take a step back in time over 200 years ago. Cave tours: approximately 60 minutes, 1/2-mile long, flat walking, some stooping, approximately 30 stairs. Lantern tours of the cave are also offered several times a week. Tours available Memorial Day to Labor Day.
The black soot that covers the walls of the cave and the old tools and devices found in the cave suggest its historical significance and perhaps makes it the most interesting cave of Carter Caves. An archeological review put it on the National Register of Historic Places as a cave that was mined for Saltpetre as early as the War of 1812. Saltpetre is one of the three key ingredients needed to make gunpowder.
The extreme dry, dusty conditions of the cave are due to the impermeable nature of the sandstone that covers practically the whole cave. Near the main entrance to the cave, where the sandstone does not overlay the cave, dome-pits have developed by the invading water from the surface. In a few places of this part of the cave, mineral-laden waters have been able to deposit some calcite formations. Overall the walls of the cave exhibit a dark, dingy color and the formations are dark due to the flames of torches and lanterns used in the cave in earlier days.
Saltpetre Cave is also a significant bat cave. The cave is believed to be the original hibernacula for large populations, possibly millions, of the endangered Indiana bats. Bat researchers believe the bats hibernating in Saltepetre Cave were disturbed during the mining operation and moved their winter sleeping grounds to Bat Cave. Due to the closures that took place in mid 1990’s and the microclimate restoration project undertaken by Bat Conservation International, the number of hibernating Indiana Bats have risen from 400 bats to almost 10,000.
Temporarily Closed Caves
Bat Cave is currently the largest cave found in the park. It is an undeveloped cave that is best known as a hibernaculum for the endangered Indiana bat (Myotis sodalis). During the winter, thousands of bats hibernate in this cave when the insects on which they feed are no longer available. These beneficial creatures, protected by law, pose no threat to humans and keep harmful insects in check. This is one of the largest colonies of this bat in the world, and because of the vulnerability of the Indiana bat to winter time disturbance, the cave is gated and closed to the public. Bat Cave is made up of two levels of passages running parallel to one another. The main lower-level passage is a wide, underground conduit that was formed by solution along bedding planes. Large rooms along this passage, where the ceiling reaches 10.7 meters above the floor, have resulted from the collapse of the thin rock strata that forms the ceiling. A small stream, Cave Branch, flows through this passageway making it susceptible to flooding during periods of heavy rainfall. Debris, gravel, and mud-caked surfaces attest to this. The upper levels of the cave are drier, and some speleothem growth has occurred. Access to Bat Cave was uncontrolled up to 1974. The cave is now managed with bat friendly gates. The park works closely with Fish and Wildlife officials and Bat Conservation International in order to properly manage the significant Indiana Bat population.
Laurel Cave & Horn Hollow Caves
Two other caves worthy of note at Carter Caves are Laurel and Horn Hollow Caves. Laurel cave is an undeveloped cave that is formed along a vertical joint. The downstream entrance is located alongside Cave Branch. The upstream end of the main passage is in Horn Hollow, an elevated valley that seldom has water flowing along the valley floor. Instead, the water is underground. Further upstream Horn Hollow Cave is found in this dry streambed. Water flows out of the entrance, forming a large pool that has a picture perfect reflection of the flora and fauna of the area. This is strictly an underground water conduit for Horn Hollow Creek. During periods of heavy rains the underground water conduit fills with water and you begin to see water running in the stream bed on the surface. Both Horn Hollow and Laurel Cave are prone to flooding and on occasion during the spring months and summer, flash floods occur. Laurel Cave is also home to several thousand Indiana Bats and is managed for these bats similar to Bat and Saltpetre Cave.